IllegalHe said, "That's illegal, you know." "I know", I said, "but I've done it with cops watching." The law is not perfect, it's just an attempt by imperfect human beings to establish rules for dealing with each other. In Rule of Balance I talk about some of the ways we allow humans to adjust for that imperfection in the face of the complexity of moral decisions. "Yeah, well the cops are overloaded. They've got other things to do." Computers allow us to tighten up on enforcement - automated tickets for running red lights are here to stay and automated speed limit enforcement is coming - I suspect that will mean an eventual loosening of the laws where they are too tight. Legal speed limits may rise if too many citizens get angry over being ticketed for five miles over. "I'm not going to wobble up that hill at half a mile an hour in that crazy traffic." Many of us routinely violate the law. (How often do you execute a full stop?) Further, law is not morality; sometimes it represents social convenience, sometimes it knowingly is a poor approximation to morality. Sometimes the safe thing to do is violate the law. Sometimes the moral thing to do is violate the law. Then there are the cases, like the one I talked about last time, where we choose between slightly grey moral alternatives. There will always be decision points and I'm suspicious of anyone who doesn't realize the grey in their actions. I almost never meet a pedestrian when I'm riding my bicycle on the sidewalk on that particular hill but I did once. I came up behind him, waiting for enough room to pass, and, unfortunately, startled him so much he stepped into the street. There were no cars passing - nobody hurt - but I was the one who was illegal. And wrong. I'm not going to stop riding on the sidewalk, but I'm thinking about better ways to handle the situation.
7 Oct 2009
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